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Written Answers

Volume 588: debated on Monday 30 March 1998

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Written Answers

Monday, 30th March 1998.

Icrc: Support

asked Her Majesty's Government:What assistance, financial or otherwise, they have provided since May 1997 to the International Committee of the Red Cross to support humanitarian work. [HL1140]

Since May 1997, we have contributed some £21 million towards the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Our support includes funding for humanitarian relief operations, the dissemination of international humanitarian law, protection work, co-operation activities with national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and to their headquarters budget. It also includes responses to specific appeals for a number of countries affected by conflict, including Afghanistan, Albania, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka and Rwanda.The Department for International Development is also involved in a continuing dialogue with the International Committee of the Red Cross to progress an effective joint partnership in the areas of conflict reduction and humanitarian action. This seeks to defend human rights and promote more principled interventions in conflict situations.

Unhcr: Support

asked Her Majesty's Government:What assistance, financial or otherwise, they are providing in 1998 to the General Programmes Budget of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. [HL1141]

We have recently agreed to a contribution of £7 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees General Programme Budget. We have further approved a contribution of £3 million to set up a joint UK/UNHCR Trust Fund. The purpose of this fund is to provide a source of funding to Non Governmental Organisations who work globally in refugee situations.We have also developed a continuous dialogue with the UNHCR with a view to increasing the effectiveness of our long-term joint partnership. We aim to encourage the organisation to improve its performance in certain mutually agreed areas, which include establishing a capacity for conducting independent evaluations, and strengthening and improving the quality and reliability of assessment, response, and monitoring of projects.

Peru: Population Control Programme

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will seek to obtain from the United States Congress, and place in the Library of the House, the hearing held recently on the Peruvian Population Control Programme; and if not, why not. [HL1162]

The records of the majority of US congressional hearings are public documents. These are obtainable by the Library of the House in the normal way.

Un Population Fund

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will list those countries represented on the Executive Board of the United Nations Population Fund. [HL1165]

Countries represented on the joint Executive Board of the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Development Programme in 1998 are as follows:

1998 UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board

African States

  • Botswana
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • South Africa
  • United Republic of Tanzania

Asian/Pacific States

  • China
  • India
  • Malaysia
  • Lebanon
  • Pakistan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Thailand

Latin America and Caribbean States

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Belize
  • Brazil
  • Jamaica

Eastern European States

  • Czech Republic
  • Romania
  • Russian Federation
  • Ukraine

Western European and other States

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Donors Non-Members

  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Northern Ireland: Immigration Detainees

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many non-British citizens are at present detained in Northern Ireland under immigration legislation; in what circumstances they are detained; and what provision is made for their detention prior to a decision being made on their eligibility to enter the United Kingdom. [HL1146]

As at 24 March 1998, there were 13 persons detained in Northern Ireland under Immigration Act powers. Of these, one was detained due to doubts over his identity, one was the subject of a deportation order, two were absconders from other ports and nine were illegal entrants. All are currently held in Her Majesty's Prison Magilligan. Temporary detention facilities are available in holding rooms at both Belfast International Airport and Belfast City Office, where detainees are held for short periods pending arrangements for transfer to more secure accommodation.

European Court Of Justice: Jurisdiction

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in the Treaty of Amsterdam, section 1, chapter 2, article K7 ("New Article K7 of the TEU"), paragraphs 1, 6 and 7, they understand the phrase, "The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction …" to mean a permanent transfer of the said jurisdiction to the said Court, not subject to unilateral repeal by any of the signatories; and, if so, how they reconcile this with the constitutional principle that no Parliament can bind the hands of its successors. [HL1152]

Article K7 of the Treaty on European Union (as inserted by the Treaty of Amsterdam) confers limited jurisdiction on the European Court of Justice in respect of the revised Title VI of the Treaty on European Union, which deals with police and criminal judicial co-operation.The United Kingdom will not accept the optional preliminary reference jurisdiction established by this article. Nor will the European Communities (Amendment) Bill incorporate Article K7 into United Kingdom law. There is no question of any transfer of jurisdiction away from United Kingdom courts or of Parliament binding the hands of its successors.

Fruit Machines

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many fruit machines in the United Kingdom are sited in (a) public houses; (b) amusement arcades; (c) transport termini; and (d) premises licensed for hard gambling. [HL1145]

We do not have figures in that form. However, last year the British Amusement Catering Trade Association (BACTA), the trade association for the amusement machine industry, undertook a study on gaming machines in conjunction with the Henley Centre. This suggested that in Great Britain at the end of 1996 there were around 75,000 "amusements-with-prizes" machines (maximum prize £10) in public houses; 91,000 in amusement arcades; and 13,000 in betting offices and casinos. Figures were not collected for transport termini but BACTA estimate that there are some 350 "amusement-with-prizes" machines in railway stations.

Firearms Surrender Compensation Scheme

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether small calibre pistols handed in under the first compensation scheme for large calibre handguns and the voluntary surrender scheme (1 July to 30 September 1997) will receive the appropriate A, B or C valuation payment where appropriate or only attract the

ex-gratia fixed value payment. [HL1113]

All three identical payment options are available under both the ex-gratia voluntary surrender scheme for small-calibre pistols and the statutory compensation scheme under the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997, which replaced it.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Why they are amending by hand the standard form letter in response to claimants for compensation under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997

ex-gratia payment scheme for small calibre pistols from, "It may be some weeks before we are able to notify you of the outcome", to, "It may be some time before we are able to notify you of the outcome". [HL1114]

The letters were amended in manuscript for a short period following enquiries from some claimants about the meaning of the original wording. The practice has now ceased.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the cost to date and the anticipated total cost of (a) computer hardware and (b) computer software for the administration of the 1997 Pistol and Accessories Compensation Scheme; what are the names of the software suppliers and contractors, giving the dates of the awarding of each individual contract; what additional software and data have been purchased, giving dates, costs and names of suppliers; and what software has been purchased with costs from Management and Processors of Claims (MPC) Loss Adjusters. [HL1137]

The cost of the computer system for handling firearms compensation claims is £158,117, made up of £27,101 in hardware costs and £131,016 in software and development costs. All costs include Value Added Tax. The system was procured under the standard Home Office information technology services contract with SEMA Group plc, awarded in 1994. No software has been supplied by Management and Processors of Claims Limited.

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the total funding to date granted to police forces in:

  • (a) England and Wales and
  • (b) Scotland,
  • for the collection of firearms, ammunition and accessories from firearms dealers and firearm

    certificate holders; what method was used to apportion the funds provided between:

  • (a) constabularies in England and Wales; and
  • (b) constabularies in Scotland;
  • and how much was allocated to each force; and [HL1138]

    What are the costs to each constabulary in (a) England and Wales and (b) Scotland to date of the destruction or disposal of firearms, ammunition and accessories:

  • (a) where the work has been undertaken directly by each constabulary; and
  • (b) where the work has been the subject of a sub-contract, giving the value of the sub-contract in each case. [HL1139]
  • In 1997–98, police forces in England and Wales received a total of £2,905,500 in grant towards their costs of implementing the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997. The Scottish forces received £535,500 in total. Forces received an average of £67,000 each. In the case of the English and Welsh forces a proportion of the grant was allocated on the basis of the number of estimated handguns in each force area; in Scotland the grants were divided equally between the forces. The methods of allocation were agreed with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in the case of the allocations to police forces in England and Wales, and with ACPO (Scotland) and the Scottish Office in respect of the Scottish forces.No reliable record of the actual costs incurred by police forces is currently available.

    Firefighters

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What are the necessary qualifications, including training undertakings, required for

  • (a) a full-time fireman and
  • (b) a part-time fireman. [HL1092]
  • The qualifications for appointment to the rank of wholetime firefighter are set out in the Fire Services (Appointments and Promotions) Regulations 1978, as amended. These require that: the applicant is of good character; is 18 years of age or over; meets a range of specified fitness standards which would enable him or her to undertake firefighting duties; and has passed such examinations in educational subjects as the fire authority may require. All except the last qualification for appointment are applicable to part-time (retained) firefighters. The responsibility for ensuring the efficient training of members of the fire brigade rests with the local fire authority under Section 1(1)(b) of the Fire Services Act 1947.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have to replace full-time firefighters with part-time firefighters. [HL1093]

    Under Section 1 of the Fire Services Act 1947, the duty of making provision for firefighting purposes and for securing the services for their area of a fire brigade rests not with the Government but with the local fire authority. It is for the authority to determine the numbers of wholetime and part-time firefighters it employs. A fire authority cannot, though, reduce the number of its wholetime or part-time firefighting posts without the prior approval of the Secretary of State.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the current average response time for call-out by firefighters; and what information they have of any change caused by the replacement of full-time by part-time firefighters. [HL1117]

    For primary fires (those involving damage to property, casualties or rescues or attended by five or more appliances), the average time in 1996 in England and Wales between receipt of the first call to the fire brigade and arrival of the first appliance was just under six minutes. Information is not available centrally for other types of fire, special service incidents or false alarms, nor as to whether the primary fires were attended by full-time or part-time firefighters.

    Fire Station Closures

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Which fire stations are currently earmarked for closure or are subject to plans to reduce the number of fire appliances; and [HL1115]What discussions they have had with the fire brigade unions concerning the closure of fire stations or the reduction of fire appliances. [HL1116]

    Statutory responsibility for the provision of an efficient fire service rests locally with the individual fire authorities. However, any fire authority wishing to reduce the number of its fire stations, fire appliances of firefighter posts must, under section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947, seek the approval of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. Approval is only given if my right honourable friend is satisfied that the national recommended standards of fire cover will be maintained. Home Office guidance makes it clear that, in addition to any representations which may be made to the fire authority, interested parties also have the opportunity to make representations direct to the Home Secretary. My right honourable friend and my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for fire service issues have met union representatives in respect of particular Section 19 applications.Current Section 19 applications under consideration which involve the closure of a fire station or the removal of a fire appliance are:

    Fire authorityFire stationProposal
    South WalesBargoedremoval of pumping appliance
    SurreyChobhamclosure
    Gomshallclosure
    Stainesclosure*
    Sunburyclosure*
    WarwickshireTysoeclosure
    * To be replaced by a new fire station serving both Staines and Sunbury.
    Once a Section 19 application is approved, the implementation of the changes is a matter for the fire authority.

    Prison Service: Quantum Project

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Why they selected two firms to participate in the Quantum Project to assess the feasibility and value for money options in the delivery of information technology to the Prison Service; how they will ensure that the supply of these services is open and competitive and that specifications are written in a manner that does not restrict competition; why they did not divide the contract into modules, each of which could have been the subject of separate competitive tenders. [HL1072]

    The Prison Service is undertaking a procurement under the European Communities Services Directive using the negotiated procedure. In doing so, it has evaluated suppliers' proposals and has selected two suppliers as suitable to participate in the Quantum Project. Adopting the negotiated procedure enables the suppliers' solution and service offerings to be fully negotiated before they are finalised in a contract. Having two suppliers in the process ensures there is a competitive element to all aspects of the contract.The decision not to divide the contract into modules was taken after a review had taken place as to its feasibility. There were strong arguments in favour of not splitting up the services across different suppliers. One was that an integrated service approach will enable the Prison Service to receive a common infrastructure through which all information will flow; and, second, the main services of prisoner administration, finance and personnel are interwoven and not readily separable. These views were shared by a range of advisors to the project, as well as Prison Service personnel and suppliers.

    Asylum Applications Lodged Before 1 April 1993

    asked Her Majesty's Government:How many applications for asylum which have not yet had a first response were lodged before 1 April 1993. [HL1075]

    As at 28 February 1998, there were 50,960 applications for asylum in the United Kingdom, excluding dependants, awaiting an initial decision. Of these, it is estimated that 10,000 were lodged prior to the introduction of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993, which came into force on 26 July of that year. I regret that reliable information regarding the number lodged before 1 April 1993 is not available.

    Mr Mohammed Riaz And Mr Quayyum Raja

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Home Secretary is conducting a further review of the tariffs set in the cases of Mr. Mohammed Riaz and Mr. Quayyum Raja; and when they expect to give the two prisoners the result of this review. [HL1149]

    My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has agreed to review the tariffs set for these two mandatory life sentence prisoners. We are awaiting Mr. Raja's response to an invitation to make any further representations. The review will be conducted as quickly as practicable after his response is received.

    Prisons: Taxation Of Visiting Ministers' Fees

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Why some prisons are now deducting tax from visiting ministers' fees allowances which are paid to charities in the cases where the ministers are not allowed to accept money for religious reasons. [HL11501]

    A recent audit of the Prison Service by the Inland Revenue has confirmed that visiting ministers who receive payments for fees and expenses are to be treated as office holders within the Prison Service and must be subjected to Income Tax and Class I National Insurance contributions. If the noble Lord is aware of any particular case where there is doubt over the applicability of this action, he should arrange for details to be sent to the Director General of the Prison Service, who will have the matter investigated.

    Hm Prison Weare: Ministers

    asked Her Majesty's Government:How many visiting ministers, and of which religions, have been appointed to Her Majesty's Prison Weare. [HL1151]

    The Weare currently has four ministers, a full-time Church of England chaplain, a part-time Roman Catholic priest, a part-time free-church minister and a sessional Imam.In addition, the prison has a Rabbi and Buddhist minister visiting when required and a Quaker Prison Visitor. The prison has been seeking a Hindu minister but has so far been unsuccessful.

    Juvenile Prostitution

    asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to issue new guidance to police forces, probation and social services, concerning best practice in preventing juvenile prostitution and in caring for and rehabilitating those at risk or already involved. [HL1121]

    New guidance on how best to deal with the problem of children involved in prostitution will be issued in the autumn. It will take account of the Association of Chief Police Officers' guidelines on dealing with children involved in prostitution, any effects of the Crime and Disorder Bill and responses to the Government's consultation paper, Working Together to Safeguard Children: New Government Proposals for Inter-Agency Co-operation, issued last month, together with prevention, care and rehabilitation of children involved in prostitution or those at risk of prostitution.

    Carbon Dioxide Emissions

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What evidence they have that rises in fuel duty have reduced the growth in carbon dioxide emissions; and whether they will place in the Library of the House any studies or reports that will confirm this. [HL1156]

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions
    (Baroness Hayman)

    In the March 1998 Financial Statement and Budget Report, which is placed in the Library of the House, it was estimated that the total impact of road fuel duty increases from implementation in 1993 to 2002 will reduce CO, emissions by around 10MtC and road use by 29 billion kilometres by 2010. It is estimated that the recent increase in road fuel duty (4.9 pence per litre on petrol and 4.4 pence per litre on diesel) alone will result in an annual saving in CO2, of 1.7MtC by 2010.

    Airfields Environment Trust: Grant Application

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to make any grants to the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) or related bodies. [HL 1144]

    The AEF's sister organisation, the Airfields Environment Trust, has applied to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' Local Projects Fund, which supports local environmental activities, for a grant to develop its London information service. The grants panel established by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will consider this application at its next meeting on 22 April 1998. I will write to the noble Lord advising him of the panel's decision.

    Education Action Zones

    asked Her Majesty's Government:On what authority the Secretary of State for Education and Employment stated on 19 March (HC Deb., col. 864) that, "I can further confirm that we will be expanding rapidly our education action zone programme. We shall fund a five-fold increase to establish 25 zones by January 1999", when the policy of education action zones has not yet been approved by Parliament. [HL1187]

    The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment
    (Baroness Blackstone)

    We want to get the first education action zones started quickly in order to allow local partnerships to begin making the improvements we expect to see. Twelve will start in September 1998 and 13 in January 1999. We will not create formal education action zones before Royal Assent, but if necessary the zone consortia will be able to make a start based on agreements between the relevant parties.

    "Powerhouse::Uk" Exhibition

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What is currently taking place on Horseguards' Parade and why. [HL1122]

    powerhouse:: uk, which is an exhibition being mounted by my department about British creativity. It is being held in conjunction with the Asian Europe Summit (3–4 April), which brings together government leaders from the European Union and key Asian nations. Each of the leaders will be accompanied by business delegations and large media teams. The occasion therefore presents an opportunity to demonstrate, to an influential audience, how British creativity has led to world class products and services in design, fashion, technology, engineering and scientific research. The exhibition will also be open to the public from 4–19 April, so they will be able to see how British talent leads to success for Britain in world markets.

    Smoking Controls In The Civil Service

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will prohibit smoking in all government buildings except for certain designated smoking areas; why certain senior staff in government departments have permission to smoke in their offices under so-called "Grandfather's Rights"; and whether these arrangements will now be reviewed. [HL1120]

    Within the Civil Service it is common practice to create non-smoking working environments with separate facilities for those who wish to smoke. Departments and agencies are responsible for devising their own policies. In the majority of the major employing departments smoking is not allowed in single occupancy rooms.Government departments and agencies make full use of guidance issued on health and safety and best practice to promote the health and safety of all civil servants; and regularly review their policy on smoking in the workplace.